Born in Moscow in 1866, Kandinsky's parents were divorced when he was five. He was raised by an aunt. He studied law and painted as a hobby. By 1896 he was a Doctor of Law, economist, and university lecturer. In that year he was deeply struck by two events, a traveling show of French Impressionist paintings, and an opera by the new German composer Richard Wagner. These influences, along with time spent earlier in a rural province studying peasant law, where he was strongly effected by the brightly colored houses, furniture, and costumes, combined to unleash within him an outburst of creative energy that forever shifted his focus from law to art. Though strongly expressive, his early work was quite representational though hardly conventional. Feeling limited by the bonds of subject matter, he began to move further and further from all but the most elemental symbolic references to any "real world" into the psychological and spiritual effects of pure color.
In 1914, Kandinsky returned to Russia where he taught and wrote about abstract art. But the Bolshevic Revolution in 1917 founded a government that disapproved of his art so he abandoned his country for Berlin and the Bauhaus, a new arts college that brought together architects, artists, and engineers to teach, learn, and exchange ideas. In 1930, he had to leave yet another country because of his work. Hitler was no more attuned to his artistic vision than had been the Communists. In Paris, he reduced his visual vocabulary to a few basic geometric elements: circles, semicircles, angles, straight, and curved lines. With these he composed a visual "music" that cemented his position as the foremost abstract painter of his time. He died in Paris in 1944. He was 78.